When the average person pictures Portland, it’s as a bustling, creative, mini-metropolis—recently voted Best City in America, who are we to disagree. And they’re probably thinking of Southwest Portland, home to a clean and vibrant downtown.
On any given night visitors can enjoy superb classical music concerts at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall; catch a Broadway show at Keller Auditorim, or bounce like silly children on the spring-loaded floor of the Crystal Ballroom to local bands of note like the Decemberists or Pink Martini.
And given Portland’s reputation as home to culinary wizards like Gabriel Rucker (Le Pigeon, Little Bird) and the Heathman’s Phillippe Boulot, not to mention craft beer royalty like the Widmer Brothers, Bridgeport, Hair of the Dog, and Laurelwood, one can definitely see advantages to living within an easy distance of so many exciting possibilities. Bailey’s Taproom is an ideal spot to test-drive a multitude of these renowned regional ales. Not to brag, but when it comes to food and drink, Portland plays second fiddle to no one, and the downtown is a great place to begin. Why not tarry a while at Higgins, a cozy dining den that boasts one of the best burgers in town and a beer menu with more than 100 options? Closer to Burnside Street and the nearby Pearl District, revelers can toast to old times and new ones at world-class bars like Clyde Common and Saucebox, both of which have vast menus of astonishing cocktails.
Shoppers chomping at the bit to throw around a little cash can find bargains and bounty at Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, and the many business ensconced at the Pioneer Place Mall. Another highlight is certainly Tom McCall Waterfront Park, a capacious green space that’s always hopping with joggers, dog-walkers, and river watchers. When the weather’s nice, it’s usually hosting huge family friendly festivals like Cinco de Mayo, the Blues Festival, and the Bite of Oregon.
There’s always something happening in “Portland’s living room,” better known as Pioneer Courthouse Square, 40,000 square feet of brick and stairs where farmer’s markets, brew festivals, concerts, and the annual lighting of the Christmas tree take place. And if you’re curious as to why so many Portlanders are wearing green (when it’s not even St. Patrick’s Day) you may get swept up by the Timbers Army, a fiercely loyal throng of soccer fans who will brave any weather to cheer and sing for their beloved Portland Timbers. Seriously, being a part of this roaring force of nature at Jeld-Wen Field is a sporting event that simply must be experienced by tourist and transplants alike.
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, 503-248-4335, pcpa.com
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay, 503-248-4335, pcpa.com
Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside, 503-2250-0047, mcmenamins.com/CrystalBallroom
Bailey’s Taproom, 213 SW Broadway, 503-295-1004, baileystaproom.com
Higgins, 1239 SW Broadway, 503-222-9070, higginsportland.com
Clyde Common, 1014 SW Stark, 503-228-3333, clydecommon.com
Saucebox, 214 SW Broadway, 503-241-3393, saucebox.com
Jeld-Wen Field, 1844 SW Morrison, 503-553-5405, jeld-wenfield.com
Tom McCall Waterfront Park, SW Naito Pkwy, 503-823-2223, portlandonline.com
Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 SW Sixth, 503-223-1613, thesquarepdx.com
Portland’s newest neighborhood is a shiny high-rise district built in a former little-used industrial area. Visitors can get an incredible bird’s-eye view of Portland by taking a trip on the aerial tram that carries hundreds of employees of Oregon Health & Science University to their offices on a daily basis.
The construction here is fresh as paint, and all manner of new businesses have sprung up to cater to the busy professionals who call the South Waterfront home. One of the best places to do Happy Hour in Portland is McCormick & Schmick’s Pilsner Room, where guests can nosh on excellent seafood and pub grub, sip exclusive beers from Full Sail Brewing, and lazily watch the Willamette River roll on by. Diners interested in more exotic fare are directed to Bambuza Vietnamese Bistro or trendy French dining spot Vie, where the river views are second to none. Other restaurants and retail spaces are still works in progress, but if you’re new to town and don’t want to hear endless stories about your neighborhood’s “historical significance” then it makes perfect sense to set up housekeeping someplace that’s still shaping its identity.
McCormick & Schmick’s Harborside at the Marina, 0309 SW Montgomery, 503-220-1865, mccormickandschmicks.com
Full Sail Brewing, 506 Columbia, Hood River, 541-386-2247, fullsailbrewing.com
Bambuza Vietnamese Bistro, 3682 SW Bond, 503-206-6330, bambuza.com
Vie, 315 SW Montgomery, 503-222-1290, viepdx.com
CORBETT - LAIR HILL
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Also known as South Portland and Corbett-Terwilliger-Lair Hill, this elongated strip lays just south of downtown and includes the rapidly expanding South Waterfront enclave and nearby John’s Landing. A smattering of old Victorians lurks on one side of the freeway off-ramp, signifying the neighborhood’s blend of tradition and tech.
Here you’ll find old school drinking establishments like Buffalo Gap, where since 1974 you can watch the big game, catch some live music, or enjoy sensational hangover breakfasts piled high with eggs, sausage, and hash browns. The Lair Hill Bistro is a quaint little lunch counter that serves breakfast, lunch, and brunch to the locals in need of their morning caffeine fix—or maybe a little hair of the dog. Down closer to the waterfront, Bambuza Vietnam Bistro brings plenty of heat and spice to the table for adventurous appetites, while Corbett Fish House is a popular destination for eaters craving a healthy fish fry. Finally, Aquariva, located in the River’s Edge Hotel and Spa, boasts one of the best river-view drinking and dining opportunities you’re likely to find.
Aquariva, 0470 SW Hamilton Court, 503-802-5850, facebook.com/Aquariva
Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen, 3682 SW Bond Ave, 503-206-6330, bambuza.com
Buffalo Gap, 6835 SW Macadam Ave, 503-244-7111, thebuffalogap.com
Corbett Fish House, 5901 SW Corbett Ave, 503-246-4434, corbettfishhouse.com
Lair Hill Bistro, 2823 SW First Ave, 503-279-0200, lairhillbistro.com